DCRI will be data coordinating center for new lung development reference project

June 17, 2014 – Scott Palmer, MD, MHS, will serve as the center’s principal investigator.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute announced this week that the DCRI, in conjunction with RTI International, will serve as data coordinating center for the Molecular Atlas of Lung Development Program (LungMAP).

Scott Palmer, MD, MHS (pictured), director of the DCRI’s pulmonary research program, will serve as principal investigator for the coordinating center.

scottpalmerRespiratory disease is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, but efforts to find better treatments for these ailments have been stymied by researchers’ limited understanding of how the lung develops, particularly during the period between infancy and early childhood when lung cells undergo terminal differentiation and maturation. This knowledge gap persists in part because of researchers’ limited access to healthy lung tissue. Future treatments for lung disease will require a better understanding of the molecular pathways that regulate normal lung development in order to improve lung injury repair and regeneration.

“What we are trying to do is understand the processes that guide molecular lung development,” Palmer said. “If we can understand normal lung development, we can begin to understand lung diseases in a very different way.”

LungMAP is a collaborative, multidisciplinary network designed to address these issues. The overall goal of this program is to build an open-access reference resource by creating a comprehensive molecular atlas of the late-stage developing lung with data and reagents available to the research community. The atlas will integrate gene and protein expression profiles and other molecular characterizations with high-resolution anatomical information to provide molecular profiles of defined cell types in the developing lung.

“This project will develop large amounts of data from different perspectives about early lung development,” Palmer said. “Our job as the data coordinating center is to take that data, synthesize it, and create a model of lung development that integrates all of this information.”

As LungMAP’s data coordinating center, the DCRI will be responsible for data collection, integration, and analysis; developing the LungMAP database and website; and coordinating the research activities of the project’s Human Tissue Core and the Research Centers. Palmer and his team will work with RTI, under the direction of Robert Clark, PhD.

“RTI has a lot of strength in bioinformatics, genetics, and omics technology, which complements the DCRI’s strengths in statistical and outcomes analysis,” Palmer said. “This partnership could be a model for future endeavors.”

Palmer and his colleagues hope that LungMAP will provide new insights into pulmonary diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, idiopathic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension.

“This is a new and innovative approach in the field of lung disease,” he said. “We hope we can really make a difference with this work.”